Dr. Franz Vetter

A tribute by Hardy Zantke

Franz Vetter (Marie deRonde on left) judging cones at Katydid in 2011

It is with great sadness that I have to report the sudden passing of Dr. Franz Josef Vetter from Germany. He died on August 1st from a pulmonary embolism. With his passing the driving world has lost one of its best driving judges and judges’ course directors, as well as a great friend of driving.

Dr. Vetter lived close to Aachen and had competed in the German Pairs class at the highest level for over 15 years. He became a National German driving judge in 1994 and an FEI judge in 2001 and  “O” judge in 2007.  He was very actively judging at 25 or more events every year, all over Europe as well as at all of our top level events in the North America, were he was well respected for his profound knowledge, love of the sport and the horses, great sense of humor and patient, calm nature, which perhaps comes easily to a pipe smoker, as he was.

Perhaps one of the highlights of his judging career was when he was appointed President of the Ground Jury at the Four-in-Hand World Championship 2008 in Beesd, The Netherlands, followed by being President of the Ground Jury at the Singles World Championship 2010 in Pratoni, Italy and as Foreign Judge at the Pony World Championship last year in Lipica, Slovenia. Most recently he served as Head of the Appeals Committee in Aachen and was scheduled to serve in the same capacity at the upcoming Four-in-Hand World Championship in Riesenbeck, Germany.

I first met Franz when we judged together at Gladstone in 2004. Probably helped by our common German background and being house guests at the same lovely home for the competition we became good friends at that competition and have remained so since.
His command of the English language had still a few more holes in it than mine, but he became quite fluent over the course of the following years – which is especially remarkable as contrary to most other Germans, he never had any English classes in school but had taken French instead. He was a dentist by profession and all his English was completely self taught in his later years as a judge.

Not only could he teach himself, but he also used that ability to help so many others in the sport. He became one of the great FEI judges course directors to help train and educate judges but also to help promote competitions, especially also in many eastern European countries. I had the great pleasure of attending one of his FEI judges’ clinics in Vesces, Hungary in 2008 and was impressed by the way how he taught that clinic, with a clear and logical system to judging dressage based on the training scale and a similarly clear and logical approach to judging cones, both of which I had never experienced to that extent at any of the other many clinics that I had attended before.  I am happy that the ADS followed my recommendation to hire him for their followed Super Clinic, and while I was not there, I have heard positive reviews. Earlier this year he was President of the Ground Jury at the Live Oak CDE and lead an FEI judges clinic afterwards, where again he impressed us with his clear an logical presentation.

My thoughts are with his wife Carola. They did not have any children, but he leaves a stable full of horses behind. We all have lost a great friend. Farewell, dear Franz.

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4 responses to “Dr. Franz Vetter

  1. So very nice Hardy…he sounded like a wonderful man, teacher and friend.

  2. Dot Willcoxson

    Thank you Hardy. Franz was always so kind and helpful to me. I will be forever grateful for his wise counsel, whether we were judging together or whether I shadowed him as I did at Live Oak this year.

  3. Franz was a great supporter of driving and especially the Pony World Championships. He inspired many of us to become better and more educated drivers, competitors and judges. He was encouraging, kind but straightforward about what could be done better, then quick to reward when he saw what he wanted. He had a good sense of humor and liked to laugh. I will miss him!

  4. I looked forward to working as a volunteer with Franz each year at Live Oak. At first he seemed very quiet and I thought, Oh no I hope this won’t be like the last time I scribed with that French judge! Then he opened up and became almost bubbly with his thick German accent and laughter.
    Harriett Jones

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